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Book review: 'The Boleyn King' is a compelling, well-written historical romance from former Utahn

By Scott Livingston

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, May 12 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

"THE BOLEYN KING," by Laura Andersen, Ballantine Books, $15, 368 pages (f)

Former Utahn and talented author Laura Andersen’s debut novel, "The Boleyn King," turns on the simple question: “What if?”

As the author herself puts it, “What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted?”

On this simple premise, former Saratoga Springs resident Andersen weaves a wonderfully imaginative and well-written tale of intrigue, high court politics and desperate love in the first of a planned trilogy.

The story begins at the moment Anne Boleyn is giving birth to yet another child, just as she did in real life. In the novel, however, the outcome is exactly the opposite of how the story actually concluded. Boleyn gives birth to a boy named William, who upon his birth becomes the future heir to the throne.

Andersen fully inhabits this world, speaking the language of the times and place in which the novel occurs as if with a native tongue.

At age 17, William, now officially known as Henry IX, is engaged in war on all sides. Whether it is the French threatening from the south or the Catholic Church attempting to usurp William’s power at home, danger lurks on almost every page.

The author wisely employs one of the oldest and most reliable of narrative devices: pitting two beloved characters against each other for the love of another character. In "The Boleyn King" it is William and his best friend and confidant Dominic who both fall in love with Minuette, an orphan girl raised by William’s mother Anne. This conflict is the true heartbeat of the novel, and the author’s adept handling of it sets up the reader for the inevitable and highly anticipated sequels, starting with "The Boleyn Deceit" coming this fall.

There is mild profanity and some slight sexual innuendo. The described violence that would likely be rated PG-13.

Andersen’s personal journey to publication is at least as compelling as the plot of her novel and can be further explored on her collaborative website Cabinet of Curiosities at fivecuriosities.blogspot.com. Here she details the long process of writing the novel as well as the arduous work required to find representation. Fortunate for readers, her journey has a happy ending. "The Boleyn King" is a wonderful debut. Great things are ahead for this talented writer.

If you go ...

What: Laura Andersen book signing

When: Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Scott Livingston blogs about the uphill climb of becoming a writer at sleye1stories.com. He blogs otherwise at sleye1.blogspot.com. And he occasionally can be found at facebook.com/sleye1stories.

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